Unfair, Unbalanced

BBS rails hard (and rightly) against the World Wide Leader today for their disparate coverage of the Roethlisberger and Harrison civil suits.

I’m not going to rehash the whole story here, but let me add a quick check list of ESPN’s guidelines for reporting on a civil suit:

  • “No criminal complaint was filed” 
  • Allegations in a civil suit “may not prove to be true.”
  • ESPN is “careful” in reporting civil suits “that impugn a person’s reputation or character.”

Hmm, how does Marv’s case stack up?

  • Harrison was never charged.  The police said he was not a suspect.  Check.  Marv is clear.
  • He has been accused by a convicted murder who was found guilty of lying to the police about the incident and a man currently in jail.  Pretty good chance the allegations may not prove to be true.  Check.  Marv is clear.
  • The story has certainly hurt Harrison’s reputation and character.  Check.

I agree with BBS on this point:  ESPN doesn’t seem to care about the rep of a black WR as much as the reputation of a white QB.  I can’t see any difference between the two cases based on the criteria that ESPN has given.

I found the the story of Dallas radio host Dale Hansen fascinating, but would caution restraint in charging Kravitz and Eddie with cowardice in the matter.  It is unclear what orders 1070 was under regarding the story.  I’m under the impression that 1070 is an independent station and whatever guidelines they follow would be their own, rather than ESPN’s.  We have contacted both 1070 and Bob Kravitz about the issue, and are awaiting a response.
UPDATE:  Kent Sterling, program manager at 1070 The Fan responded to my inquiry on the topic.  Here is his official statement:

We are an independent radio station regardless of our affiliation with any network.  While my position allows me the authority to mandate talent to talk about a topic, I’ve never exercised it.  Nor would I ever anticipate the need to do so.
Kravitz & Eddie and Dan Dakich are smart guys.  They are trusted to use the discretion to determine what topics to feature.  ESPN has no power to affect that, nor have they ever attempted to.
The 1070 arrangement is different than the set up in Dallas.  The Dallas ESPN network is owned by ESPN.  1070 is independent.  Bob Kravitz and Eddie White were free to discuss the case if they wanted to.  Any decision to do so or not was made based on whether or not they thought people would be interested.  This is, of course, the right basis on which to make that call.  So in that one portion of BBS’s piece, I would disagree, although his main point still holds.

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